Stack Exchange Network

Stack Exchange network consists of 175 Q&A communities including Stack Overflow, the largest, most trusted online community for developers to learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers.

Visit Stack Exchange

Questions tagged [word-usage]

This tag is for questions which a dictionary cannot answer about the meaning or correctness of a word in a sentence. Give as much context as possible.

94
votes
7answers
128k views

Is there any difference between being ill and sick?

I can say I'm ill or I'm sick. But what is the difference between the usage of these terms? I've heard that one can use sick for longer-term and ill for shorter-term, but is that really correct? How ...
72
votes
3answers
239k views

Does “a couple” always mean two?

Today I said some event was a couple of weeks away. A native speaker from Australia corrected me and said, no it's at least three weeks away. What followed was a discussion as to whether a couple ...
70
votes
6answers
317k views

What's the difference between “center” and “centre”?

Which one is correct: examination center or examination centre? What is the difference between center and centre? Is the difference only in spelling? What is the usage difference?
68
votes
4answers
10k views

Difference between “Do we have a blog?” and “We have a blog?”

I saw a simple question in a comment on SE: What if i told you there was a sci-fi and fantasy blog? We have a blog? But according to my English textbook, that question should be: Do we ...
66
votes
10answers
29k views

If potato chips come in contact with humid air, they become what?

In my mother-tongue, there's a word for it. I'm wondering what the English word is. If potato chips come in contact with humid air (as in rainy days), they lose their crispiness, and become ...
62
votes
4answers
11k views

Is there any more 'respectful word' than 'beggars' for these wonderful guys?

In India, beggars don't do anything and ask for money. But here, I see this specific practice to ask for money (in foreign countries). Check this guy he works harder, shows his skills and asks for ...
58
votes
9answers
104k views

What is the right word to refer to a black person, when you don't know their name?

Excuse my ignorance, I have lived in the UK for 8 years however I still don't know how to refer to a black person, as I came from a country where racism was not an issue. Some agency called me last ...
57
votes
1answer
9k views

What's the meaning of bee in hand and beauty in eye?

I've seen this riddle. I have a bee in my hand. What's in my eye? Apparently, the answer is beauty but I don't get it. What's the play on words here?
55
votes
4answers
6k views

Can I write “nonsensual data” for data that makes no sense?

I am worried that "nonsensual data" might come across as data that does not have a lot of erotic vibe....
52
votes
4answers
13k views

“[I]t literally scared her to death” - Why is “I” in brackets?

Quoting a phrase from an article: Grubb’s first overdose was on Aug. 15, 2015. Her mother found her blue on her bedroom floor, a tourniquet around her arm and a needle next to her. Paramedics ...
50
votes
2answers
5k views

The college in 'Electoral College'

By college, I understand as a school or a university. How to make sense of the College in the term 'Electoral College'?
48
votes
7answers
12k views

Why are nice picture/gif/video about foo called “foo-porn”?

I was browsing Reddit and I discovered many subreddits named after foo-porn, to name just a few: /r/EarthPorn /r/FoodPorn /r/Map_Porn /r/ruralporn /r/shockwaveporn /r/SkyPorn /r/unixporn It seems ...
45
votes
8answers
10k views

“To death” vs “to the death”

Sometimes I see the former, as in "starve to death". But sometimes I see the latter as well, as in "fight to the death", or in the following quote: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend ...
43
votes
5answers
7k views

What do we call 'ketchup', 'cheesy dip' , 'oregano' and things like that collectively, as they aren't side dishes?

With most of the Indian dishes, we are served with something other than side dishes i.e. salads. Since most of the users here come from different countries, I come up with stuff that is ...
42
votes
6answers
31k views

'Ask away' - what does 'away' mean?

“Sir,” said Harry, reminding himself irresistibly of Voldemort, “I wanted to ask you something.” “Ask away, then, my dear boy, ask away. . . .” In this sentence, I don't know what does 'away' ...
41
votes
9answers
9k views

Can I say “fingers” when referring to toes?

In my native language, there is no word for toes. You just use the same word for both toes and fingers. In this context, I would say a human has 20 fingers. Recently I've heard someone saying a ...
40
votes
4answers
6k views

Do native speakers still use “ought to”?

Do native speakers still use "ought to" in daily conversation? I haven't seen "ought to" used on any social or news ... websites. I only read about it in English grammar books. Ngram: Trends: ...
38
votes
5answers
11k views

How can you recognize “uncle” is father's brother or mother's brother? (Is there any “default option”? )

Sometimes the speaker(or author) specifies what he/she means when he/she uses the word "uncle" for example: The gelding was mine, a gift from a great-uncle on my mother’s side.(Educated by Tara ...
38
votes
7answers
6k views

What's the meaning of “Can it, will you?”

I was watching a TV show, and one scene in a movie theatre goes like this: Film viewer: We know, sit down. Jason: Maggie. Maggie: How are theatre owners gonna know how we feel about this ...
37
votes
8answers
11k views

How to say something like “my company” without sounding like I own the company?

How do I say something like "my company," "my plane," "my bus", etc. without making it sound like I own the company/plane/bus/etc? "Our company" makes it seem like both me and the person/people I'm ...
37
votes
4answers
6k views

What is the difference between IMO and IMHO and IHOP?

I was reading a public forum, and I saw the following abbreviations: IMO IMHO IHOP As far as I see, these are interchangeable somehow, but I don't understand the correct usage of them. Just assuming ...
34
votes
4answers
35k views

Is Let us = Let's?

Many times I heard these words interchangeably. I want to know if "Let's" and "Let us" are used for the same meaning. I think (for me): "Let us" is word used for requesting. Like Let us do something ...
33
votes
7answers
10k views

Does one call “regular” men “Sir” in the UK?

I've lived in the US for a couple of years and ended up using "Sir" when addressing "regular" men in a large range of situations (in which I would use "Ma'am" if I was addressing a woman): [on ...
32
votes
6answers
7k views

How do Americans respond when asked for their names?

I heard a character on TV, when asked for his name, responded: My name is Bond, James Bond. Why doesn't Mr. 007 reply, "My name is James Bond". I am not familiar with first/middle/last name ...
30
votes
2answers
4k views

Why is “for a tortuous three days” singular even though days is plural?

I was surprised to find out that you should write: I waited for a torturous three days. Instead of: I waited for torturous three days. Why is this? "Days" is plural ...
29
votes
11answers
6k views

Keeping my mouth shut, referring to avoiding weight gain

Today, in an informal context I was asked what was the best strategy to keep a good weight according to my experience. I said that keeping my mouth shut was quite a good strategy. Can I use the word ...
28
votes
6answers
6k views

What's the meaning of “be broker than the Ten Commandments”?

The meaning of "the Ten Commandments" is clear (see Wikipedia for example). Also, Oxford Dictionaries show "broke" means "Having completely run out of money". But I don't understand the meaning of ...
28
votes
1answer
6k views

Are there any solid reasons for the “-st”, “-nd”, “-rd”, and “-th” suffixes for numbers?

Is there any reason why we say 1st, 2nd, 3rd and the rest (4, 5,.. 10,..) are all -th except the one ending in 1, 2, 3? Why does it change specifically for 1, 2, 3?
28
votes
4answers
97k views

Differences between “mandatory” and “compulsory”

What is the difference between mandatory and compulsory? Are they synonyms? Can they be used interchangeably especially with regard to something you must do? Writing the essay is a mandatory ...
27
votes
3answers
7k views

“Transgender” versus the obsolete term “transgendered”

As of recent I've been reading some Wikipedia articles on gender and sexuality leading out from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) page. However, it was not clear to me why the former ...
27
votes
4answers
10k views

I have “a doubt” about whether this phrase is acceptable English

To my (British) ear, it never sounds correct to say you have a doubt about something. I expect that doubt to be pluralised, even if there's only one specific thing that I'm doubtful of, in one ...
26
votes
3answers
3k views

“(Noun) the sh*t out of this” — What nouns work?

In the recent feature film The Martian, Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, has to figure out a way to grow food on Mars when it's never been done before in order to survive until he can possibly be ...
26
votes
3answers
6k views

Why is New York often said with the word “City” in English?

Usually, while watching some videos/movies or reading books in English, I tend to see that people always adding the word "City" to New York(New York City). What's behind this stuff in English? I can ...
26
votes
3answers
4k views

Are some offensive words always masculine?

I have an interesting question which has got me thinking lately. You see, there are some nouns that I have always seen be used as masculine such as the words "fucker" and "motherfucker" (which I am ...
26
votes
7answers
5k views

When to say “I need money” as opposed to “I need the money”?

I learned that if we are referring to money in general, then we don't use "the". So: "I need money" = I need money in general (any money). But when watching a movie, I heard people say "I need the ...
26
votes
7answers
14k views

“quite” vs “pretty”

What is the difference between quite and pretty in the following context: The differences between these concepts are quite complicated. and The differences between these concepts are pretty ...
25
votes
5answers
7k views

What does web-mistress imply as a job title

I love that none needs my permission to take my code and do something cool with it, and someone else can do the same with that code. I love that an "end user" is usually only a few hours work away ...
25
votes
2answers
43k views

My lady, Your honour, Your grace, how to decide whether to use “my” or “your”?

After watching some period dramas and courtroom dramas, I'm really confused of whether to use "my" or "your" when speak to someone with respect. Are there some rules for these statements or are ...
24
votes
8answers
79k views

'Out of curiosity' means I'm not curious at all. Isn't it?

I was reading some other forum and came across the debate on 'curious' word. The senior member responds telling all of below mentioned sentences mean the same thing. Just for curiosity´s sake, ........
24
votes
8answers
6k views

Is there any difference between friendly and kind?

A music teacher is portrayed as follows: “She talks to everyone. She always says hello.” Thus, is she friendly or kind? Cambridge Dictionary defines friendly as behaving in a pleasant, ...
24
votes
7answers
22k views

“I did my best” vs “I did the best I could”

In one post, a commenter maintained that the phrases "I did my best" and "I did the best I could" don't mean quite the same thing. If it is true, what is the fine difference between the two?
24
votes
3answers
58k views

“file doesn’t exist” or “file doesn’t exists”

You’ve requested the example.txt file. That file doesn’t exist/exists. Which one should I use? Why?
24
votes
2answers
4k views

Is there any difference between “temporary” and “provisional”?

The English dictionary shows that either temporary or provisional indicates the short time. Therefore, I get confused about which is more proper in the following sentence: Any physical theory is ...
24
votes
2answers
254k views

What does the word “though” mean and on which occasions can be used?

I'm a little confused about the word though. I hear it a lot of times in different sentences in different sequences, as well as in speaking and writing. Sometimes it seems to me that this word is ...
24
votes
3answers
186k views

“Important to me” or “Important for me”

I cannot easily figure out which one is more appropriate to use: It's important to me. It's important for me. Are they the same? If not, what's the difference?
23
votes
12answers
14k views

Stuck writing a sentence because tea is a 'beverage' and water is not!

I am writing an article on tea. I want to say that... Tea is the most consumed _____________ after water. The problem is tea is a beverage but water is not. So, if I come up with this sentence, ...
23
votes
5answers
11k views

Can I use “Dress” for men's wear?

My friends laughed at me when I said "nice dress man" because "dress" is used for only females. Is this correct? I was always thinking dress is just synonym of costumes and clothes. Is there any ...
23
votes
8answers
3k views

Can I say “I speak Chinese as well as Spanish”?

I speak Chinese as well as Spanish. I want to say that my Chinese and Spanish are equally strong. So please help me out with this. I think it's weird to say speak "as well as". I don't know if there ...
23
votes
7answers
14k views

Glass vs Cup - differences in usage

In everyday spoken language when you, as native English speakers, say "glass" and "cup" are they considered as a synonym for you or you have a special meaning for each one of them? As a non native ...
23
votes
7answers
10k views

“Do never…” vs. “Do not ever…”

I am just arguing with my friend if the phrase "do never something" is totally wrong compared to the phrase "do not ever something". And is "never" a contraction of "not ever"? Is it okay using "Do" ...